Concerns over discipline at €4k a year girls' school
Parents of pupils in one of the country's most elite girls' schools have expressed concern to inspectors about discipline.
They also voiced dissatisfaction about how bullying was dealt with in the €4,575-a-year school, located opposite the RTE campus in Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
The problems came to light when the Department of Education inspectors visited the 217-pupil Teresian School earlier this year for a Whole School Evaluation (WSE). While inspectors found a "warm family-like atmosphere" that parents and pupils enjoyed, a "significant minority" of parents raised issues about behaviour and bullying.
The team also noted a "sense of frustration" among pupils and staff about a "low-level" discipline problem, which was corroborated in questionnaires completed by pupils and parents.
Pupil punctuality was one of the behavioural issues highlighted by the inspectors, who visited the school last May.
Inspectors also discovered that Leaving Certificate pupils were not getting the required 28 hours-a-week class time, a problem also found in other schools, including at least one other that charges fees.
As part of the WSE process, inspectors issued a questionnaire to second, fourth and fifth-year students and their parents in order to gain a broader view of school life.
About half of parents responded and according to the inspectors' report, published this week, they provided a positive endorsement of the school.
But "a significant minority of parents articulated issues of concern and perceived dissatisfaction" regarding the running of the school.
"The concerns expressed related in particular to how bullying and student behaviour is addressed and to the lack of communication and consultation with parents."
Inspectors also found that "fostering responsible behaviour by students, for example in relation to student punctuality is an ongoing challenge".
They said a "sense of frustration among students and staff regarding 'low-level' discipline" was corroborated in the questionnaires.
Inspectors found much to commend Teresian School, including a hard-working board of management, strategic leadership from the acting principal, high quality teaching and very good subject planning.
They said both parents and students acknowledged a warm, family-like atmosphere, but they questioned the long-standing tradition of staff and students being on first-name terms. Recommending a review of that policy, inspectors said the school needed to manage the balance between a "familial" and "overly familiar" atmosphere.
The inspectors have made a number of recommendations, including, as a priority, a revised code of behaviour and a whole-school approach to both discipline and the revised code.
The code should be underpinned by a student support team and include a system of "behaviour slips" whereby more serious and persistent misbehaviour was identified, with appropriate sanctions, the report stated.
On teaching, the inspectors said the school offered a broad and balanced curriculum and that student achievement in state exams was very good, but that senior cycle students were falling short of the required minimum 28 hours a week of instruction time.
They commented that "study periods and assembly time cannot be included in tuition time". They also noted that students expressed concern about a lack of advice about subject options. Their recommendations include addressing shortcomings in the timetable and curriculum provision.
In a response, the board of management has outlined a range of actions including formalising a pastoral care team, the implementation of new anti-bullying procedures laid down by the Department of Education and a new student intervention tracking system.
The board said they were also working on renewing their special needs policy with a view to seeking the most inclusive education possible, and made a commitment to full teacher contact time, with study periods phased out at senior cycle.
- Katherine Donnelly Education Editor